In the last few months we have looked at the lives of the children of Fatima, modern saints and blesseds, and founders of ecclesial movements and communities. The teachings and examples of these holy people point to the “universal call to holiness.”
You can review these articles at my personal site (www.fatheranthonyho.com). Starting this week, we are going to explore the spiritual life based on the spiritual classic of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622): An Introduction to the Devout Life.
Devotion and love of God are inseparable. St. Francis wrote, “As charity leads us to obey and fulfill all God’s commandments, so devotion leads us to obey them with promptitude and diligence.”
The saint pointed out that charity and devotion differ no more than flame and fire. “Charity is a spiritual fire which, when it flames brightly, becomes devotion; and devotion adds to the fire of charity a flame which renders it ready, active, and diligent, not only in keeping His commandments, but in carrying out His heavenly inspirations and counsels of perfection.”
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Sanctity does not consist in this or that practice, but in a disposition of heart which makes us humble and small in the arms of God.”
Holiness consists not in the multiplication of devotional practices, but in the fulfillment of the will of God in the ordinariness of daily life.
Devotion is joyful
St. Francis de Sales pointed out that a devout life is not sad and gloomy, but happy and lovely. St. Teresa of Avila said, “A sad nun is a bad nun. I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits.”
“What would happen if we hid what little sense of humour we have? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others.” She prayed, “God deliver me from sad-faced saints.”
Saints are not sad. They are people filled with joy, which is the fruit of charity.
“Devotion” is spiritual sugar which gives sweetness to mortification, disciplines, penance, sacrifice, and suffering. The devout life is like a ladder which allows us to descend in action to the aid of neighbour and to ascend in contemplation to a loving union with God. Living the devout life means finding true happiness in God, and sharing this happiness with others.
Devotion is universal
The “universal call to holiness” is an important theme of the Second Vatican Council and the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II.
St. Francis de Sales pointed out that devotion is suitable to all kinds of vocations and professions. “The practice of devotion must be adapted to the capabilities, the engagements, and the duties of each individual,” for “true devotion hinders no one, but rather it perfects everything, and whenever it is out of keeping with any person’s legitimate vocation, it must be spurious.”
To live the devout life, one must fulfill one’s daily duties out of love for God. St. Josemaria Escriva teaches us that all the faithful are called to be holy through work.
He wrote, “It is we, men walking in the street, ordinary Christians immersed in the bloodstream of society, whom Our Lord wants to be saints and apostles, in the very midst of our professional work; that is, sanctifying our job in life, sanctifying ourselves in it, and through it, helping others to sanctify themselves as well.”
“Do everything for Love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism.”
Blessed John Paul II said, “True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life: in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.”